Unlike the other shows I have seen recently, I was not overly familiar with The Secret Machines. But, a live music junkie has a hard time saying no. Especially when yes offers so much more potential. And, yeah, I miss home like a house on fire and seeing live music is one thing that temporarily transports me – elsewhere if not home. So, clearly I went.
I checked them out on-line ahead of time, you know good to know what you might be getting into and everything. They were alright. I tried to classify it in my mind. Can you have “ambient hard rock”? Hm. The more I looked the more I realized that the genre-fication of music really annoys me. And not only because it escapes me. It is really sort of lame.
For example, you have your “alternative” music. Add whatever suffix you like there, -rock, -music, or maybe be real cool and just go with the minimalist syllabic approach of “alt-rock.’ Do we really even need to get into the specifics of the semantics here? “Alternative” for chrissakes. Look what Wiki says and tell me if this is not a total contradiction in terms: “a genre of rock music that emerged in the 1980s and became widely popular in the 1990s.”
Apparently “alternative” music emerged from “indie” music. Huh. Okay then, what exactly are we talking about here? Again, I take you to Wiki: “a genre of rock music that originated in the United Kingdom and the United States in the 1980s and earlier. The term is often used to describe the means of production and distribution of independent underground music, as well as the style of music that was first associated with this means of production.”
That must explain the total thrashing these bands get from their “fans” when they make it to a major label. How supportive. [“Indie rock artists are known for placing a premium on maintaining complete control of their music and careers, releasing albums on independent record labels (sometimes self-owned and operated) and relying on touring, word-of-mouth, airplay on independent or college radio stations and, in recent years, the Internet for promotion.”]
I considered the ineffectiveness of both these “genres” relative to The Secret Machines. Are they alternative? Well, they are different from most of what is available in Hong Kong, that is for sure. But they have also been accused of being pretty derivative in some of the harsher reviews I saw. I decided that “alternative” is as meaningless a modifier when assigned to music as it is to lifestyles.
So, then, are they “indie”? I have no idea what label they are on, though they have put out several records so I suppose they have one. I could care less. I hope they score a major one. Or, wait, is that a bad thing? Hm. Do they make and distribute their stuff and maintain complete control? I do not know. Don’t care either. If they are playing music that I want to hear, I hope they are simultaneously playing music they want to make. I certainly understand the history of an independent movement in music emerging from the domineering circumstances of Motown, the payola scandals and the contract disputes you hear about when artists are being told to produce music in the way farm chickens have to produce an egg a day [laying an egg would be an unfortunate end outside the barn.] Still, the rigidity of the indie scene seems a bit pretentious and not really supportive of that which it claims to adore.
In the continuing genre search I was forced to revisit the ‘shoegaze’ designation. Back to Wiki: “a subgenre of alternative rock that emerged from the United Kingdom in the late 1980s. It lasted until the mid 1990s with a critical zenith reached in 1990 and 1991. The British press named this style shoegazing because the musicians in these bands stood relatively still during live performances, in a detached, introspective, non-confrontational state, hence the idea that they were gazing at their shoes.” I learned this term a while back. I liked it for the visual imagery alone. The music is not bad either. Thinking back on The Secret Machines, I think this might be the best way to pigeon-hole them, if that was what was going to have to happen.
They had elements of all of the above (or at least elements of what can be discerned from the ridiculous categories mentioned above) but rocked a little harder. Their drummer was nuts… like, he must go home and either do a truck load of stimulants or pass out after every show. Day-um. Just check out the blood on his hands. Literally. And the new guitarist is hot, which is always a bonus. I liked it. It was loud, vaguely reminiscent of something I really like, though would be hard pressed to identify, and to the point – if that makes sense. As I said the reviews have been mixed, but I think they were definitely worth checking out.